Armed Astronauts?

Apr 25, 2024
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I was just watching an old episode of Doctor Who in which our hero materialized and began exploring. Unbeknownst to him and his companion, they were being watched by an astronaut holding some kind of laser pistol. That got me thinking. When astronauts land on Mars, will they be given weapons, just in case they encounter what Douglas Adams might call a "naughty bug-eyed monster"?
 
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I'm no expert, but Mars' thin atmosphere (which is less than 1% of earth's) would make even a tiny gun effective. This would also mean that the gun would need to be able to handle the pressure, so maybe it wouldn't really effect the weight.

But what are the weight requirements on this hypothetical mission? Humanity might decide that it won't go to Mars unless it can take ≈ 1 butt-ton (metric) of payload to its surface, or maybe there's some huge leap in launch capability. And if they allocate a tiny fraction of that to "naughty bug-eyed monster"-deterrent, then maybe they can afford a space-gun.

But this would only be useful in a very unlikely scenario. What's more likely:
  • hostile multicellular life exists at our landing site and we missed it.
  • an astronaut goes "space-crazy" and renders important equipment or crew inoperable with the space-gun.
Astronauts are mentally screened rigorously, but I'd argue that if we have the capacity to take a space-gun with us, then we're probably taking more astronauts.

But is a dedicated combustion-propelled kinetic weapon really the best choice? They might be able to repurpose their other equipment for self-defense. The opposition can't be too big or numerous because we'd of known about them. And if they're intelligent, then the government probably wants to be able to say "Sorry. We didn't know you were here. We're on a peaceful scientific mission."

They might just run. No one's gonna say, "You discovered life on Mars, but you were only on the surface for a few hours? What a waste of tax money!"
 
Given all the equipment needed to address the known dangers to human life on Mars - I think it will be a struggle to ever bring enough - adding more equipment to address imaginary dangers seems especially wasteful. If people are willing to endure the real and extreme risks of going to Mars, they are unlikely to need guns for the sake of feeling safe from aliens.

Or from colonists suffering psychosis or turning criminal. Or need them for overthrowing tyrannical government - or, Mars colonies likely being more like a military unit operating in a war zone than a democracy, for killing a tyrannical CO. People skills to manage and avoid conflicts will be much more valuable than guns.

And given the need to avoid damaging critical equipment - and everything brought from Earth to Mars is going to be critical - most commonly used weapons would increase risk to public safety rather than reducing it.
 
Jan 2, 2024
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But the Chinese and Russians established a base ages ago without your knowledge.
They have a treaty for the defence of the bugs. The bugs realise they have to choose sides. ETC
 

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